Today’s New Albums: Billy Strings, TAUK, SOJA & More
New music from The Infamous Stringdusters‘ Andy Hall, Mac McCaughan, Steely Dan, High & Rising and a tribute to The Velvet Underground are also among today's Release Day Picks.
Each week Release Day Picks profiles new LPs and EPs Team JamBase will be checking out on release day Friday. This week we highlight new albums by Billy Strings, TAUK, SOJA, The Infamous Stringdusters‘ Andy Hall, Mac McCaughan, Steely Dan, High & Rising and a tribute to The Velvet Underground. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Billy Strings – Renewal
The Scoop: Guitarist Billy Strings follows his Grammy-winning 2019 LP Home with Renewal, a new album out today through Rounder Records. Strings assembled with his band featuring bassist Royal Masat, mandolinist Jarrod Walker and banjoist Billy Failing at Sound Emporium in his current hometown of Nashville to record Renewal earlier this year. The Michigan-bred musician then headed to California for sessions with Jonathan Wilson, who co-produced the album with Strings.
Additional contributors include fiddler John Mailander, synthesizer wiz Grant Millikem and ace pedal steel player Grant Millikem. Jonathan Wilson not only co-produced but played percussion, celesta and harpsichord on Renewal.
Billy made the decision to fit 16 songs on Renewal rather than go with a concise approach. “I make records the way that I thought that they were made. I grew up on The White Album, Houses Of The Holy and Electric Ladyland,” Strings explained on The JamBase Podcast. “I don’t think our fans will be pissed if the record is an hour-and-a-half long. If anything, it’s just more music.”
TAUK – Chaos Companion
The Scoop: Instrumental quartet TAUK made use of the time off the road due to the pandemic by creating Chaos Companion, a nine-track studio album that arrived today. Guitarist Matt Jalbert, bassist Charlie Dolan, drummer Isaac Teel and keyboardist Alric Carter built a studio on their native Long Island where they recorded the follow-up to 2018’s Shapeshifter LPs.
“This past year presented us with more time to be creative and delve into our artistic expression,” shared Carter. “Recording Chaos Companion opened up new avenues for us to explore and stands as a story of our time spent together. It has been super exciting to collaborate and pick from a wide variety of new songs to make this album.”
TAUK drew from a stockpile of material they had started over the past few years on Chaos Companion. “We were pulling from everything. You write songs and then you don’t feel like they’re finished,” Dolan said on The JamBase Podcast. “I started going through all the old files we had of ideas … so we got to dust off some of that old stuff.” Contributors include Lettuce’s The Shady Horns (Eric “Benny” Bloom and Ryan Zoidis), percussionist Greg Ellis and Max ZT on hammered dulcimer.
SOJA – Beauty In The Silence
The Scoop: Washington D.C.-based reggae outfit SOJA released their new studio album, Beauty In The Silence, on ATO Records. The guest-filled LP features UB40, Slightly Stoopid, J Boog, Dirty Heads, Rebelution, Collie Buddz, Common Kings, Mihali, Nanpa Básico, Eli Mac, Eric Swanson and Stick Figure. SOJA’s first full-length album since 2017’s Poetry In Motion also features a variety of producers including Niko Marzouca, Mariano Aponte and Johnny Cosmic. In the same fashion as their 2014 album Amid The Noise And Haste, the title of Beauty In The Silence was inspired by the Max Ehrmann poem, “Desiderata.” The new album was recorded pre-pandemic at Miami’s Circle House Studios and Dave Matthews Band’s Haunted Hollow Studio in Charlottesville, Virginia. Additional recording was done remotely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My dad had that poem [‘Desiderata’] memorized, and before I’d go out on tour he’d sort of whisper it in my ear,” SOJA frontman Jacob Hemphill stated. “To me, it’s a reminder of what we lose when we get caught up in the distractions all around us. You get so used to life being loud and fast and goal-oriented, but then you go out in nature and hear the silence and realize, ‘Damn, I got tricked.’ Life doesn’t have to be all go, go, go. The real key to life is in being still.”
“I really love that this record is a mix of all of us together in a room and all of us far apart,” Hemphill added. “It’s something that I’d love to keep doing in the future: let’s get together, let’s get the vibe and the groove, and then let’s go off into our own worlds and discover what’s there.”
Andy Hall – A Universe Within
The Scoop: The Infamous Stringdusters dobro player Andy Hall goes solo with today’s release of A Universe Within. The eight-track LP follows Hall’s 2020 solo release, 12 Bluegrass Classics for Resophonic Guitar. Hall, who was recently nominated for Resophonic Guitar Player of the Year at the 2021 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, took a different approach with A Universe Within, steering away from his typical bluegrass style in order to create an ambient record.
“Ambient and New Age music has always been healing for me,” Hall stated. “The space it creates, and the quiet colors it paints calms my nervous system, but still equally excites my senses. All of these songs are straight from the ether and into your ears.”
Mac McCaughan – The Sound Of Yourself
The Scoop: Mac McCaughan (Superchunk/Portastatic) put out his second full-length album under his own name, The Sound Of Yourself, today via his excellent label, Merge Records. McCaughan began recording The Sound Of Yourself in January 2021 at his home studio in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The 11-song LP finds McCaughan joined on various tracks by his Superchunk bandmate, drummer Jon Wurster, Wurster’s The Mountain Goats bandmate, saxophonist Matt Douglas, and McCaughan’s frequent collaborator, harpist Mary Lattimore, plus vocalists Annie Hayden, Sabrina Ellis, Torres (Mackenzie Scott) and Telekinesis (Michael Benjamin Lerner).
McCaughan detailed the time surrounding the making of the album and working with other artists, stating:
“Each day is blurring into the next, so what are we doing today?. How can I disrupt this? I think what resulted was a theme of subdued… ‘joy’ is the wrong word, but it’s at least comforting if not propulsive to have something open-ended to work on every day without any kind of structure or deadline or rules.
“I’m constantly inspired by the work of my peers. I feel lucky to be able to collaborate with them despite the distances between us. Sending off a song into the ether and having it returned greatly improved and in often surprising and moving ways was one of the most satisfying aspects of making this record.”
Steely Dan – Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live!
The Scoop: The first live Steely Dan album in more than 25 years, Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live!, was released today. Recorded following the death of co-founding guitarist Walter Becker, the album features the band led by co-founding keyboardist Donald Fagen performing live at New York City’s The Beacon Theatre, The Met Philadelphia, Orpheum Theatre Boston and Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, Connecticut). The live set contains such Steely Dan favorites as “Hey Nineteen,” “Reelin’ in the Years,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Aja,” “Black Cow” and “Kid Charlemagne,” among others. In addition to Northeast Corridor, the live album The Nightfly Live was released today featuring The Steely Dan Band performing Fagen’s 1982 solo album The Nightfly in its entirety.
Various Artists – I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute To The Velvet Underground & Nico
The Scoop: Acclaimed producer Hal Milner oversaw the creation of I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute To The Velvet Underground & Nico prior to his death last year from COVID-19. The all-star compilation album released today by Verve Records is a track-by-track reimagining of The Velvet Underground & Nico’s landmark 1967 self-titled debut album. The project began in 2017 when Todd Haynes was named director of the documentary film, The Velvet Underground, which premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and will make its debut globally in theaters and on Apple TV+ on October 15. Milner employed an eclectic roster of musicians to record VU covers, enlisting the likes of Iggy Pop & Matt Sweeney, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, Courtney Barnett, The National’s Matt Berninger, Sharon Van Etten with Angel Olsen, Andrew Bird, Lucius, Kurt Vile & The Violators, St. Vincent & Thomas Bartlett, Thurston Moore, Bobby Gillespie, King Princess and Fontaines D.C./strong>.
High & Rising – Howl
The Scoop: Recently formed trio High & Rising today released their debut album, Howl. The group consists of wife/husband couple Laura Farley (upright bass/vocals) and Jym Farley (acoustic guitar) and Ben Rohde (percussion). The 12 songs on Howl were co-written by Laura and Jym. The band coined the term “groovy grass” to describe their blend of folk Americana, jam and bluegrass music. The band, which came together a little over one year ago, brought in a number of guest musicians to contribute to Howl. Those who appear on the record include Horseshoes & Hand Grenades’ Adam Greuel and Davey Lynch, The Big Wu’s Chris Castino, Chicken Wire Empire’s Ernest Brusubardis IV and Ryan Ogburn, Armchair Boogie’s Augie Dougherty, The People Brothers Band’s Craig Baumann, The Pat Watters Band’s Rick Krueuziger, Old Soul Society’s Leo Albertoni and Joseph Huber’s band’s Kenny Leiser.
“We are so thankful for the support we have received from our local, musical heroes within the Midwest music scene,” Laura Farley stated.
Compiled by Scott Bernstein and Andy Kahn.